Alex Smith

49ers re-draft 2008: Balmer and Rachal in the first two rounds?

The results of last week’s re-draft results are in. As always, you chose to build the offensive side of the ball, but, somewhat surprisingly, you chose two offensive linemen. Somewhere, a single tear is rolling down Mike Singletary’s cheek. Given the previous drafts, I was certain that LaMarr Woodley was going to be the pick. You never fail to surprise.

Round 1, Pick 28

Round 3, Pick 76

The 2007 Season

On September 30th, while attempting a sack, Rocky Bernard would land on Alex Smith as any 308 lbs. man would: heavily. The force from this landing would separate Smith’s shoulder while severing his relationship with Mike Nolan. Smith would take a three-week sabbatical to rest his grade-3 separation, the same injury that would end Matthew Stafford’s 2010 season.

Upon his return, Smith played as miserable as he looked. In his first game back, he clutched at his shoulder so often that the FOX broadcasters continually urged the 49ers “to get him out of there.” Then, after Smith’s third game back, Seattle linebacker Julian Peterson said he noticed Smith grimacing and wincing after throws.

“It’s kind of hard for them to pass the ball if he’s not completely healthy,” Peterson said after the game. “He can’t really get the ball down when he wants to. You see the receiver jumping way high or the ball is too low.”

Of course, in his infinite wisdom, Nolan downplayed Peterson’s comments and eschewed any concern for Smith health, remarking, “If Julian was a doctor, I would probably take what he had to say more seriously, but he’s a football player.”

Nolan’s ability to identify Julian Peterson as a football player was impressive, but perhaps not as impressive as his knowledge of quarterbacking.

“[Smith is] fine,” Nolan asserted. “He’s not playing well. I wouldn’t put it on the shoulder. Accuracy doesn’t just come from the shoulder. It comes from the technical aspects of your game. I believe all those things are affecting him.”

Following that Seahawks game, Smith would make his shoulder issues public and essentially remove himself from practice. This did not sit well Nolan, who had repeatedly claimed that Smith’s shoulder was healthy. A public spat ensued.

Smith claimed he and Nolan’s issues were all a misunderstanding, something he chalked up to the family-like atmosphere at 49ers headquarters. Families, according to Smith, are “going to have disagreements.” Ultimately, though, Smith would take the blame for the infighting, promising, “to be more clear” in the future. This promise would be fulfilled almost a month later.

On December 11, an exacerbated Smith would make his frustrations clear to Daniel Brown and Dennis Georgatos of the Mercury News. The topic of discussion? Mike Nolan.

“He came out and said some things to the team,” Smith announced. “I felt it was trying to undermine me with my teammates.”

Smith alleged that Nolan and the team had deliberately misled the media about Smith’s shoulder injury in order to keep themselves from “looking bad.”

“[My] arm wasn’t getting any better [after the Seahawks game]. In fact, it was getting worse and I was going to go get a second opinion,” Smith explained. “(Nolan) can spin it however he wants to, but the first thing Dr. Andrews told me when he saw me was ‘This is much worse than I thought.’ ”

Andrews might as well been discussing the 49ers. Though they would go on to win two of their next three games with Shaun Hill under center, the team would enter the off-season with more questions than answers.

Side note: Nolan was asked about Shaun Hill when he was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator. Here is what he had to say: “[Shaun Hill is] a very good quarterback. I always thought he was good. I would admit to making a mistake not making him a starter at the end.”

And I would admit that it was a mistake to buy that Shaun Hill jersey. Live and learn. Right, Mike?

The Off-season

Going into the off-season, two defensive starters told the Chronicle’s Nancy Gay that they did not want Mike Nolan to return to the team. According to Gay, the players cited the following as reasons for the team’s poor performance: “questionable personnel schemes, such as abandoning the base 3-4 scheme too often in favor of nickel and dime sub packages that left the edges and middle of the field exposed; favoritism that determines playing time; poor game and clock management; poor communication that extends beyond the Nolan-Alex Smith injury flap.”

Apparently, these players weren’t the only ones who felt this way, as Nolan would indeed be fired at the season’s end. Unfortunately for players and fans alike (especially the staff at, Nolan would only be fired from his general manager post. At the behest of new GM (and former Nolan hire) Scot McCloughan, Nolan would retain his job as head coach.

“I totally believe in what he started here, what we started here,” McCloughan said of Nolan. “We’re all in this together, and we want to make the best decisions together.”

Hostler too would be fired, along with QB coach Frank Cignetti. To replace them, Nolan would tab “Mad” Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and hire Ted Tollner as QB coach.

“There’s no one more creative, as far as using personnel that allows us to be productive on offense,” Nolan said. “He’s got one of the best minds in all of football. … Mike was about as excited as I’ve seen him, and certainly excited about a lot of our players.”

As a unit that finished last in the NFL in points (219), total yards (3,797), yards passing (2,320), offensive touchdowns (23), first downs (218), sacks allowed (55) and third-down conversions (31.4 percent), Martz would certainly need to be creative. It wouldn’t help that Nolan and McCloughan had proven to be inept evaluators of offensive talent.

The 49ers would part ways with starters Derek Smith, Darrell Jackson, Larry Allen, and Bryant Young (Allen and Young would retire).

They would welcome Justin Smith (one of the greatest signings in 49ers history) and JT O’Sullivan (one of the worst).

The 2008 Draft

Aside from the 6th and 7th rounds, this has to be one of the worst drafts ever. The 49ers were in desperate need of a WR (Bryant Johnson and Isaac Bruce would enter the season as the starters), a pass rusher (Tully Banta-Cain never panned out, did he?), a right tackle (Jonas Jennings and Barry Sims would platoon), and a cornerback (Walt Harris wasn’t getting any younger and Nate Clements wasn’t getting any better). To make matters worse, the second and third rounds would produce some of the best players in the NFL.

Atone for the sins of McNolan, and re-draft HERE.

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